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Six relative of Morobe politician killed in plane crash

By Poreni Umau PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 6, 2010) - Morobe Governor Luther Wenge has called for suffering air crash pilot Richard Leahy to leave Morobe Province and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

A grieving and frustrated Wenge called on pilot Leahy not to remain in PNG, comments that did not go down well with the son of the pilot, Nick Leahy.

Mr. Leahy defended his father’s record, saying he was not here to make "quick money" when he trained many Papua New Guinean pilots.

He called Mr. Wenge’s comments "unfair" and "unhelpful" to the investigation into the crash by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

He said the airline company, Kiunga Aviation, was doing its best to assist the families of those killed in the crash.

Mr. Wenge called on the authorities to charge Mr. Leahy with manslaughter, citing anything shorter than that would not be accepted. He said the pilot of the Cessna, a one-engine plane that crashed in Bengun while on its way to Baindoang, must return to compensate the families of the victims.

Mr. Wenge said the six crash victims included his 54-year-old sister Dambi Kindik, 20-year-old niece July Kindik, 16-year-old Jerry Kindik, 20-year-old Jacinta Naio, daughter of Mr. Wenge’s cousin and the late Mrs. Dambi’s grandchildren, seven-year-old Raymond Zalingau and 11-months-old Rolina Agasabu.

He said his relatives were on their way to Baindoang to set up a headstone for Mrs. Dambi’s late husband Ponis Kindik when the plane crashed.

He said Richard Leahy was responsible for the death of his relatives.

"He killed six innocent people and I ask him to pay compensation and leave.

"I will deal with him. No stones will be left unturned. I don’t want to see his face here.

"He was operating for the sake of money," Mr. Wenge said.

He said he appreciated the service that Mr. Leahy provided but he was too old at the age of 63 to be flying a plane.

He claimed the plane was more than 50-years-old as it was bought and sold by several companies until it ended up with Mr. Leahy.

Meanwhile, Nick Leahy, the son of Richard, said they were being proactive and doing their best to help the families of the crash victims.

He said that they were not hiding anything and that a letter was sent to the relatives of the victims last Sunday to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter and find ways to help.

Mr. Leahy said comments made by Mr. Wenge were unfair and that the investigation into the crash was still going on and until the results were known there was no idea of the reason behind the crash.

He said he sympathized with Mr. Wenge and his relatives for being in a horrible situation.

He said his father was under heavy sedation and could not talk but he had a work permit and lived and worked in PNG.

Mr. Leahy said his dad lived and breathed PNG and was not here to make quick money and leave a trail of destruction.

He said his father had a wealth of experience as a pilot and at such an age while flying was up to the Civil Aviation Authority to decide whether to take his licence away.

Mr. Leahy said his father was given clearance by a qualified doctor to fly.

He said his dad had also trained many pilots in PNG over the years.

Mr. Leahy said comments made by Mr. Wenge were hampering the investigations from being carried out.

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